How to handle for debt

The book stays true to its root —Melanie’s blog DearDebt.com—which she started in January 2013. The book includes Melanie’s experience, as well as “Dear Debt” letters (similar to Dear John letters) that she and some of her readers have contributed over the years.

As introduced above, the book’s format is straightforward, yet it includes some gems, and unique features you won’t necessarily find in other debt reduction books:

  1. A focus on the individual
  2. The hidden power of side hustles
  3. How reducing debt affects your outlook

These points are valuable and so merit a deeper dive.

 

#1. A Focus on the Individual

Melanie is aware of what someone reading “Dear Debt” needs: support from someone who can say “I’ve been there”. Her writing is full of hope, without dismissing what it’s like to live with the weight of obligation.

Of particular note is what she writes in a section called “You Are Not Your Debt” (pg. 35). Debt can make us feel lesser than, like a loser, and Melanie—a person who’s now debt-free—helps her readers keep things in context, despite the emotional nature of their current situation. She’s also a realist, addressing those times when we all lose steam as we head toward an overwhelming goal, and shares how she felt and overcame her inertia.

 

#2. The Hidden Power of Side Hustles

“Dear Debt” changed the way I think about side hustles. At first, Melanie presents side hustles as a way to increase your income and that they’re often necessary when a primary occupation is just not enough to live on and also make a significant dent in debt in a reasonable amount of time. But she then also emphasizes side hustles’ potential to help you learn new things, expand your skill set and your confidence over time.

She points out that, because side hustles are usually associated with a willingness on the part of the employer for the hustler to “learn on the job”, it’s a great way to try our hand at something new and unexpected. In her view, our default should be “yes” to any opportunity for a side hustle because we never know what we’re going to learn and we can always find something else if it doesn’t turn out to be a great fit.

[S]ide hustling is all about gaining experience and trying something new. You’re not applying for a salaried job making $100,000. What I’ve learned is that being confident and owning your skills and talents are extremely useful when it comes to landing gigs. (pg. 90)

 

3. How Reducing Debt Affects Your Outlook

As I read “Dear Debt,” I felt I was right there by Melanie’s side, experiencing every stage of the debt cycle: from getting into it to repaying it to thriving after debt. In her words, you can feel the change in outlook, in her emotional state and in how she experiences life. It’s almost as though she wrote about every stage of it at the very time she was experiencing it.